Monday, March 21, 2011

Commentary: Our Foreign Policy should reflect the fact that we have millions of Filipinos working worldwide

By Chanda Shahani

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario yesterday rebuffed a United States request to openly support its coordinated bombing with the U.K. and France of Libya as reported in today's

We welcome this spirited move by our new Foreign Secretary to back up the Philippine national interest ahead of those of other nations. Secretary del Rosario is a former businessman who is well aware of the economic implications our diplomatic position could have on whoever is in power in Libya. As the recent deportation of Taiwanese nationals to China shows, it is quite easy for a host country to make it difficult for our overseas foreign workers (OFWs) to work there, if they are unhappy with the official position taken by the Philippines in relation to its host government or its nationals. In the case of Taiwan, much fence-mending had to be undertaken by former Senator Mar Roxas and former President Fidel V. Ramos before the Taiwanese government lifted its restrictions on the fast-tracking of the processing of work-permits of OFWs bound for Taiwan.

Moreover,  as the following statistics from “Minding the Gap” published by Scalabrini Migration Center and co-authored by Dr. Jorge V. Tigno, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of the Philippines at Diliman shows - some 6,449,897 documented Filipinos were working in various countries in 2009 – including several in the Middle East with the following countries as the top destinations
of Filipinos migrating overseas (as of 2009):

Top 10 Destination Countries of Overseas Filipinos

1. United States 2,836,293
2. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1,092,809
3. Canada 613,593
4. United Arab Emirates 574,375
5. Australia 265,844
6. Malaysia 243,683
7. Japan 231,930
8. Qatar 229,642
9. United Kingdom 203,497
10. Singapore 158,231

(Source Commission on Filipinos Overseas)

Meantime, the current civil unrest in Egypt and Libya has spilled over into Syria, Yemen and Bahrain and - potentially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - where the autocratic rule of the Saudi Royal family could be in the next line of fire - if we ride down the wild road of untrammeled speculation.

The bottom-line is that we have more than a million Filipinos working in KSA, whose remittances are helping to prop up our economy, and therefore, we need to have a national strategy to reexamine and readdress our foreign policies in all the countries where we have vital economic and other interests. We cannot afford to dance to the tune of the U.S.A., China, U.K. Or any other alien foreign power whose economic interests are being backed up by their top national leaderships and diplomats.

We need to do more of the same.

The book, which is publicly available online (see:, also concludes that the Philippine lacks a national comprehensive strategy (and this should include our foreign policy) regarding labor migration concerns:

“The disconnect between international migration and development (of which a major indicator is the lack of integration of migration in development plans and the inattention to development in international migration policies) is reflected in the lack of coordination between migration-related
agencies and development-related agencies. More coordination between the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Economic Development Authority
is essential towards the integration of migration and development policies. Working towards coherent policies will require migration-related agencies to go beyond departmental boundaries.”

So it would seem that the country's top diplomat, President Benigno S. Aquino III needs to get moving and prioritize the formulation of a national strategy to address labor migration, including a reformulation of our foreign policy to be realigned with Filipino national interests, training for returning OFWs in starting businesses, encouraging them to invest in the capital markets (stock market and fixed income funds). Otherwise, we will be faced with the usual ad-hoc and piece meal approach to handling crises with no national plan. Not to formulate a national strategy is to betray the millions of OFWs who rely on the Philippine government to back them as they work in the front-lines, saving up for a better future for themselves and their loved ones back home.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

The Diary Archive